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South Africans took to social media en-masse as they looked to express their anger at the Protection of State Information Bill, commonly referred to as the “secrecy bill”. Facebook and Twitter were not, however, the only online avenues used to protest the bill. A number of public institutions, news organisations and bloggers adapted their websites to include some variation on the “Black Tuesday” motif.
The University of Cape Town (UCT), blacked out its entire front page, splashing the word “Censored” across it in bold, white letters. The action is a reminder that the new bill, if passed, has the potential to affect academic freedom as much as media freedom.
The University released a brief statement explaining the decision to black out the page:
The University of Cape Town has blacked out its home page (www.uct.ac.za) today in protest against the current version of the Protection of State Information Bill, which has been returned to the National Assembly for vote today.
The media and public interest groups are calling today “Black Tuesday”, as part of the campaign to raise awareness about how the proposed legislation will infringe on the principles of academic freedom and the rights of citizens to hold government accountable.
UCT opposes the lack of a “public interest defence” in the current version of the Bill. Without such a defence mechanism, for instance, members of the media would not be able to fulfil their role as a watchdog over government activity in the interests of transparency and the benefit of South African citizens.
Much of the focus has, however, been on media freedom and a number of South Africa’s media houses have been among the fiercest critics of the bill since it was first proposed.
The Mail & Guardian online blocked out its lead image:
Times Live blacked out the sides of its pages, adding “censored” stamps and text reminding people about the day:
News 24 also opted to add “censored” stamps to its blacked out motif
Times subsidiary Business Live blacked out all the images on its site:
The Black Tuesday motif has not been limited to public organisations and corporate media houses. Prominent blogger and Vodacom Journalist of the Year winner Herman Manson also decked out his MarkLives blog in black: